As many Americans celebrate Easter,
nearly 300 Iraqi Christian refugees are
awaiting deportation back to a country most
of them have never known. Nahidh Shaou, a
U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea, is
one example of why giving them a second
chance is the right thing to do.
When Nahidh arrived in the US with his
parents and younger siblings, he was only
five years old. Having escaped Iraq on the
eve of the rise of Saddam Hussein, Nahidh’s
family well understood the price of freedom.
And at the age of 17, when recruits were
scarce, he joined the army to defend the
only country he had ever known.
While he was away, his father died and
his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As the only son, he had to care for his
mother and seven sisters. When he was 20, he
was diagnosed with PTSD and honorably
discharged from the military.
But at the time, there was little help
for veterans afflicted with PTSD like him
and the pressure to care for his family led
him to fall into a deep depression.
Eventually, he tried to rob a McDonald’s,
wounding a police officer. He spent 35 years
in prison paying for his mistake.
On the day he was set for release –
September 13, 2016 – he was instead sent to
a holding prison to await deportation from
the country he had defended.
If nothing is done, Nahidh will be deported
with the almost 300 others in the coming
days and weeks.
Since the US-led war in Iraq, the
country’s Christian population has faced one
of the worst genocides of the twenty-first
century. Nearly half of the country’s
remaining Christians live in refugee camps,
waiting for a place to call home. The other
half wonder when the next genocide will
occur. They have lost hope in their country.
President Obama ignored their plight for
years and although he recognized the
situation as genocide nearly a year ago, he
took no measures to change the status quo.
President Trump’s recent escalation of
support for the Iraqi military in the fight
to defeat ISIS has given them reason to
hope. But, without serious systemic changes,
the country will never be safe for a
vulnerable minority like the Chaldean and
And if deported, Nahidh will be returning
to a country where the once robust thriving
and ancient Christian community has been
decimated. Most have fled and those who
remain are desperate to escape near certain
death or endless persecution.
Few Christians in America today can
understand what it means to suffer for our
faith. But for Iraqi Christians, persecution
is a daily reality – for them, their
families, and their fellow countrymen – a
reality that Nahidh will surely face if
Ironically, it was not Trump, but Obama’s
administration that initiated the
deportation of Nahidh and hundreds of other
Iraqi Christians. But Trump has an
opportunity to make it right.
Last week’s attack on Christians in Egypt
as they celebrated Palm Sunday was another
reminder of the deadly reality awaiting
Christians in the Middle East. They are
targeted because of their identity, their
faith, and their perceived political
allegiance to America.
Easter is a sobering holiday for
Christians around the world. For believers,
it is a reminder of the suffering and
humiliation that Christ faced in his final
hours – and the suffering his followers will
face in this world. But Easter also reminds
believers of renewal, hope, and the second
chance offered up in Christ’s sacrifice on
the cross. The holiday is truly about the
power of mercy and forgiveness.
Nahidh, like other deportees has no right
to remain in America. But that does not mean
that deporting him is the right thing to do.
True justice requires mercy and
But the Easter story poses a solution for
the immigration debate that ensures both
justice and mercy. Through Christ’s death
sinners who have done nothing to deserve
salvation are made right with God.
There are immigrants who pose a security
threat and must be removed. But there are
some who deserve a second chance. The
current law does not look at where the
individuals who committed crimes are today
and provide a mechanism for justice and
When we meet individuals like Nahidh, we
are reminded that just because we have a
right to deport someone, does not mean that
it is the right thing to do. Sometimes, to
be consistent with our values, there must be
a place for second chances.
Our veterans have served the country and
defended our values. They have paid the
ultimate price for our freedom, and now they
deserve at least that much.
President Trump should pardon Nahidh and
the other convicted refugees who face
terrible fates in their countries of origin.
Giving them a second chance at life,
liberty, and their pursuit of happiness
would be a much needed miracle this Easter